The study was done to investigate the in vivo corneal microscopic changes after femtosecond laser–assisted stromal lenticule addition keratoplasty in keratoconus by means of in vivo confocal microscopy.

Patients affected by advanced keratoconus were included in the study. Negative meniscus-shaped stromal lenticules, produced with a femtosecond laser (VisuMax; Carl Zeiss Meditec) from eye bank corneas were transplanted into a stromal pocket dissected in the recipient cornea at a depth of 120 µm. In vivo confocal microscopy was performed during the 12-month follow-up to investigate changes of the corneal and lenticular structure.

Ten patients were enrolled in the study. No changes of the dendritic cell population were documented during the follow-up period. Mild edema and stromal keratocyte activation gradually decreased during the first month. Subbasal nerve density returned to preoperative values after 6 months. Donor-recipient interfaces appeared hyperreflective but gradually improved over time with significantly reduced reflectivity after 3 months. No evidence of stromal inflammatory cell migration or matrix opacification was observed. Endothelial and keratocyte density remained stable over time. A variable degree of stromal radially distributed folds, not visible on biomicroscopy, was observed in the lenticule and in the posterior recipient stroma.

The concluded that the stromal lenticule addition keratoplasty produces transitory nerve plexus density reduction and minor inflammatory reaction that rapidly decreases during the first month. Donor-recipient interface reflectivity is comparable to a femtosecond laser refractive procedure with no sign of stromal opacification or stromal rejection in 1 year of follow-up.